Category Archives: Uncategorized

Art and About: for all to see


David Noonan’s exhibition “Only when it’s cloudless” at TarraWarra Museum of Art.

Still riding the wake of our lockdowns, I’ve been slowly stepping out and around Melbourne. My city is again welcoming, bursting with liveliness in visual and performing arts. Focussing on exhibitions, here’s some of my highlights.

There’s a whole lot of queer going on at the National Gallery of Victoria, an abundance of this and that, colour and movement. “Queer” here refers to an eclectic mix that explores gender, sexuality and sensibility through drawing, painting, sculpture, photography, video and, of course, flamboyant fashion.

The exhibition has been assembled from within the NGV’s collection. Some artists are those who identify as LGBTQ+, others are those who have lived and worked within that “queer” world.

         
Photos: Romance was Born – Luke Sales, Anna Plunkett; Gumnut Ball Gown – Paul McCann; Body Language – David McDiarmid; Pacific Sisters – Rosanna Raymond; Flamingo Park – Jenny Kees/Jan Ayres; Ruel and Bram – Drew Pettifer.

It’s widely known that sexuality plays an historical role across the arts spectrum, from authors to theatre-makers, performers, photographers, painters. “Queer” and the avant-garde are usual bedfellows. There’s a gallery space dedicated to this. Its diverse and interesting to read the accompanying notes.
          
Photos: The Victory of Faith – St George Hare; Ring Gymnast 1 – Eugene Jansson; Bronze by Gold – Richard Hamilton; Glad to be Gay – Ponch Hawkes; The Bathers – Duncan Grant; Ntozakhe II – Zanelle Muholi.

Queer is at the NGV until 21st August  https://www.ngv.vic.gov.au/exhibition/queer

A Trip to TarraWarra
Leaving Melbourne for a weekend away in Victoria’s Yarra Valley, we drove directly to TarraWarra Wine Estate and Museum of Art.  On arrival, the vista is sweepingly beautiful. The wine cellar awaits, but first we wanted to see David Noonan’s exhibition “Only when it’s cloudless”.

The gallery itself is a stunning construction, loads of space to roam, with large inviting windows that look out onto the valleys, bringing shards of daylight within.

        
Photos: Vista from TarraWarra Estate; around the Museum of Art spaces. David Noonan’s “Only when its cloudless” exhibition.

Australian artist, David Noonan’s exhibition (curated by Victoria Lynne) is engaging on every level. His black and white images are collage, using all the greyscales within.  You can sense the spatial distribution, with some works choreographed in a theatrical manner.

        
Photos: Works and detail from David Noonan’s exhibition. 

After soaking up “Only when it’s cloudless”, we indulged in a glass of TarraWarra 2021 Pinot Noir Rosé with a plate of terrine and cheese.  A visit to TarraWarra can’t be recommended highly enough.  It’s a delicious experience for all the senses.

David Noonan “Only when it’s cloudless”  closes 10 July. https://www.twma.com.au/exhibitions/david-noonan

HELMUT NEWTON In Focus
At the Jewish Museum in St Kilda there’s an exhibition that resonates with my early life. It’s a celebration of Helmut Newton’s photography (born Helmut Neustädter 1920, Berlin) whom I came to know as Australia’s most famous fashion photographer.

Helmut had his first camera at 12 years of age. He left school at 16 to become apprentice to Berlin portrait photographer, “Yva” (Else Neuländer-Simon). He fled Hitler’s Berlin, living in Singapore for two years, before arriving in Australia on the Queen Mary in 1940.

My memories of his black & white photography are that he transformed the ‘focus’ on women in fashion. They were proudly sexy, evocative, he captured female beauty as something remarkable. Always these women had an alluring presence.

          
Photos: Helmut Newton, Photographer:  Women – fun, beautiful, sexy, evocative.

Helmut Newton set up his studio at 353 Flinders Lane, Melbourne, the beginnings of our rag trade strip known as ‘The Lane’, where clothing and millinery designers emerged with glamour and pizazz. His photography featured in Vogue and other respected fashion magazines. His subjects became ‘cover girls’, notably Maggie Tabberer, perhaps Australia’s best-known fashion model of the times, and forever into her career.

Included in the Helmut Newton In Focus exhibition is a video room of short films. I sat through them all. They told much history of what I remember about growing up in Melbourne as a little girl whose Mum had worked as a pattern maker/seamstress in Flinders Lane during the 1930/40s. There were gowns in Mum’s wardrobe that dazzled with satin and sequins. These were ballgowns and bridesmaid dresses, embroidered and appliquéd. Mum could make a pattern for anything from a light summer dress to a lined, winter coat. Watching the videos, it amused me to hear that, back in those exciting times for Melbourne fashion, mothers told daughters, “It’s not good to work in Flinders Lane. It’s not proper”. I bet my Mum, Vera, loved it!

Helmut Newton lived a celebrity life, photographing his famous, creative friends around the world.  What his camera captured was elusive to most. It’s a truly wonderful exhibition.

          
Photos:  David Bowie; David Hockney, Andy Warhol; Vogue magazine covers featuring Maggie Tabberer; b/w photography; Helmut Newton; my Mum, Vera (left), strutting her style in Flinders St, April 1935. 

Helmut Newton In Focus is on until 29 January 2023
https://www.jewishmuseum.com.au/helmut-newton

The NGV is for everyone!
I’m finishing writing this blog back where I started – at the National Gallery of Victoria, where there’s so much for children’s interest and interaction.   On arrival, Julian Opie’s illuminated birds stroll the lawn strips outside the gallery. The NGV’s waterwall on the front façade has been there since the gallery opened its site in 1968. Thirty years later, when the NGV was re-designed, there was public protest that this popular feature would be removed with the new plans by Italian architect, Mario Bellini. The waterwall stayed for generations, families, tourists, all visitors, their joy and playfulness.  I’ve taken many photos of the waterwall over the years, with my daughter when she was little and we’d regularly visit the gallery, and now with her son, my grandson.

          
Photos:  Julian Opie birds; the waterwall; looking around; another Julian Opie favourite, the “wee wee boy” fountain.

The current interactive kiddies’ section has a room for building shapes, another room has fun interactive where their face is photographed and they create a Fornacetti style body.  The information desk provides ‘scavenger hunt’ cards based on colour and finding objects. The little ones can roam any gallery space, looking around, observing, always excited to find a lady wearing a hat or a dog in a painting.  Our favourite place for colour is the Great Hall, where we lie on cushions, pointing to colours in the Leonard French glass ceiling. What is most engaging, as a parent/grandparent, is that you don’t lead or suggest. The children engage solely on their own understanding, while you sit back and enjoy.  Further, the NGV offers online learning sessions from Under 5s up to secondary level education for teachers and students to participate.

          
Photos: building; making Fornacetti face and body; collage; seeing colours; found ‘wood’

Victoria is fortunate to have our wonderful National Gallery of Victoria.
The NGV is open 10am-5pm daily  www.ngv.vic.gov.au 


Photo: Helmut Newton In Focus exhibition. 

© Images of all works belong with the artists/photographer
© All photos and text Pamela Reid/tPRO 2022

 

 

 

 

 

art and about: my friend Fiona


Fiona Crawford (2013) at the Opening of “Anastasia – Woman of Eureka”

Artist and friend, Fiona Crawford, passed away in October last year. Fiona was my ‘art buddy’. For both of us, our passion to create art was put on hold while we worked through those decades of life, family, career. When we did burst forth, we enthused about all new learnings. Moreso, Fiona and I shared a zeal for travels, history, all things inter-related to art. Over a wine, or two, we discussed upcoming plans – always ‘the next trip’, what places to visit – our current art projects, mutually supportive. We visited local exhibitions together. Curiosity and excitement doesn’t wane. It rejuvenates.

As an artist, Fiona was an intelligent story-teller.  As a woman, she was fervent about equality. Her approach to artmaking reflected both. Fiona’s 2013 exhibition “Anastasia – Woman of Eureka” was a testament to her integrity and commitment to women’s rights and family history. Anastasia Withers was one of the earliest women on the Victorian goldfields. She was also Fiona’s great-great Grandmother. Anastasia was trusted to hide the miners’ gold under her petticoats. She and two other women are believed to have designed and sewn the “Eureka Flag” (1854) which became, and remains, a symbol of the battle for people’s rights.

“Anastasia – Woman of Eureka” originally exhibited at Gasworks Arts Park in Albert Park, then later at MADE (Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka) in Ballarat, regional Victoria, site of the Battle of the Eureka Stockade. Fiona told Anastasia’s story through painting, printmaking, sculpture and textiles.

            
Photos:  Gasworks Arts Park – Fiona’s exhibition Opening

Importantly, we had fun!  At the Mirka Mora exhibition (Heide Museum of Modern Art), we were incredulous at the many glass cases bursting with Mirka’s little sketch books. We combed over these drawings, amazed how she prolifically practised her skills. Then, Mirka’s glorious paintings and a gallery space full of her dolls. Deciding it was ‘play time’, we busied ourselves in the children’s activity room.

The David Hockney exhibition at the NGV inspired us. We’d so looked forward to it. Those explosive colours and Hockney’s new works on drawing tablets. Keeping up with kids, showing us how it’s done!
               
Photos:  Play time at Heide, Mirka Mora exhibition; ‘colour our world’ at Hockney, NGV.

Another exhibition that delighted us was South African artist, Robin Rhode’s “The Call of Walls”. This was his first solo exhibition in Australia (NGV) and his work was new to us. All the more reason to explore. The street is Rhode’s workspace, as he creates using photography and animation.  Wonderful!
         
Photos:  Watching and marvelling at Robin Rhode’s exhibition.

In 2016, I was in Sinalunga (Tuscany, Italy) for an art history/en plein air painting workshop, while Fiona was a little further north in Assisi, undertaking a residency at Arte Studio Ginestrelle. Her intention was to paint, but in Assisi, Fiona discovered Punto Assisi, an embroidery tradition practised by the local women, that pre-dates the Renaissance. Punto Assisi resonated with Fiona on every level. The linen, the threads’ colour palette, this women’s work, unique to Assisi.

Back here in Melbourne, over another glass of wine, I clearly recall Fiona telling me, excitedly, about her ‘find’. It set Fiona off on a whole new artistic journey and became the subject not only for her next creative project, but she was awarded an Australian Government Research Training Program Scholarship through Federation University Australia Arts Academy for a Master of Arts (Research).  Here was a different ‘canvas’ to give voice to women, drawing with thread, to “honour the unknown makers of this art.” (Fiona).  She returned to Assisi in 2019, spending more time with these women, buying their fabric and threads.   The culmination of Fiona’s work was titled “When you go looking for me I am not there”.  It was – and is – exquisite. Exhibited at the Post Office Gallery in Ballarat early 2019, her Punto Assisi embroidery was to continue on to La Storta (through Venezia Contemporanea, Venice). But, the Covid 19 pandemic hit.  Victoria went into lockdown just as her works were assembled in Ballarat.  Another journey for Fiona, when she was diagnosed with cancer. We didn’t get to see “When you go looking for me I am not there” until her memorial service in February this year, back in Gasworks Arts Park.
            
Photos: “When you go looking for me I am not there” Gasworks Arts Park, February 2022; Fiona’s grandchildren play at Gasworks. 

Gosh, I miss my friend, Fiona.

A glass of wine, chatting all things art, history, travel, religion (at the NGV).

©   2022 Text and photographs Pamela Reid/tPRo

morning glories at NGV Australia


Maree Clarke “Me in Mourning”

My city, Melbourne, went back into lockdown in July.  For those who counted, it was lockdown number six.  My city, Melbourne, gained the infamous title of “the world’s most locked down city”.  In these last weeks, we have been slowly re-emerging, some cautiously, some oh-so-ready to bounce back into Melbourne’s lifestyle, welcome a New Year (it’s not that long ago we were “the world’s most liveable city” several times over).

I’d especially missed our National Gallery of Victoria. Back in July, we’d planned to view the Maree Clarke exhibition, Ancestral Memories.  Happily, the exhibition is still on.  Of equal interest, a new exhibition Found and Gathered, a coupling of works by Rosalie Gascoigne and Lorraine Connelly-Northey. Two exhibitions, three women artists, so grounded in their vision, respectful of the environment, heritage and belonging.

We went to NGV Australia early, at ‘doors open’, knowing there would be few people, safety in space in these Covid times. On entering the foyer, there’s an immediate sense of Found and Gathered as you walk around Connelly-Northey’s Fish trap, made from corrugated irons strips on rings of wire.

Ground floor, Found and Gathered.  My immediate response was to the NGV’S curation and concept in such a magical pairing of artists. Stepping into each gallery space, the impact is of the ‘whole’, then moving around the room, looking closer to explore the re-cycled textures and elements, their meanings.

            
Photos: Gallery foyer, Connelly-Northey’s “Fish trap”; Gascoigne’s “Takeover bid” against the rear wall; Connelly-Northey “A Possum Skin Cloak: Hunter’s Duck Net”;  detail as Ducks fly into the “Hunter’s Duck Net”;  Gascoigne’s “Feathered Fence” (swan feathers) in foreground, “Afternoon” on rear wall.

Rosalie Gascoigne (1917–1999) was born in New Zealand, where she went to Auckland University, studying English, French, Latin, Greek and Mathematics, graduating with a BA.  She married an astronomer, they moved to the Mt Stromlo Observatory outside Canberra, Australia. With no formal arts training, it was here Gascoigne explored the landscape, searching for discarded materials, developing her new-found creativity. It wasn’t until she was 57 that Rosalie exhibited and, in 1982, she became the first female artist to represent Australia at the Venice Biennale.

Born in Swan Hill, Victoria, on the traditional lands of the Wamba Wamba people, Lorraine Connelly-Northey gathers bits and pieces, re-purposing to reference her Indigenous traditions. Her sculptural works include reflections of traditional weaving techniques and cultural objects. Throughout, there is a strong presence of Aboriginal commitment to, and custodianship of, Country.

              
Photos: Gascoigne’s “Suddenly the Lake”;  Connelly-Northey’s “A Possum Skin Cloak: On Country”  sculpture is installed across two walls. Details from different viewpoints; some of Connelly-Northey’s Lap Laps (groin covers) woven from coarse and sometimes sharp materials, to bring attention to the ‘barbed’ sexual relations between Aboriginal women and Post-European settlers.

Maree Clarke’s exhibition Ancestral Memories is a deeply intimate experience. A Yorta Yorta/Wamba Wamba/Mutti Mutti/Boonwurrung woman, it is the first major retrospective of Clarke’s works across three decades, comprising a range of mediums and materials.

Most striking, and throughout, are 84 black/white photographic portraits Ritual and Ceremony. White ochre is painted on the faces and hair of the women, and on the eyes and t-shirts of the men. This ceremonial body painting represents the mourning practises of Aboriginal people along the Murray-Darling rivers.

Jewellery, printmaking, sculpture, glass and video works are all within Ancestral Memories. It feels sacred, reverent to be in the midst of such personal engagement with the artist’s ancestry.

            
Photos: “Ritual and Ceremony”; “River reed necklace set”; “Ancestral memory I and II”; “Long Journey Home”; “Me in Mourning”. 

Found & Gathered exhibition is on at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Fed Square, until 20 February.  There’s a virtual tour https://www.ngv.vic.gov.au/virtual-tours/found-and-gathered
Ancestral Memories – Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Fed Square, Level 3, Indigenous Art, until 6 February 
  www.ngv.vic.gov.au/exhibition/maree-clarke


Photo: visitors at Found and Gathered exhibition

©   2022 Text and photographs Pamela Reid/tPRo

Armchair art travel

Photo: The spectacular Charles Jencks landform at Jupiter Artland, Edinburgh.

Here in Melbourne, Australia, restrictions are easing after lockdown #4 and our international borders will be closed until next year.  That doesn’t need explanation.  Traveler friends around the world have been staying at home since early 2020.  Those of us who are art-lovers have been spoilt by galleries and museums throughout these difficult times: virtual tours, conversations, education, so much knowledge shared. One could sit in front of the computer all day, but I’m not good at sitting still for long.

In the past, I’ve written about cities I’ve visited, the textures of landscapes, history, cultures and, particularly the art.  As I (we) can’t travel, I’m writing this blog about a couple of my much-loved cities.  Hopefully, you’ll make yourself comfortable, pour a nice wine, and vicariously travel with me. Enjoy!

Starting with EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND with it’s never-changing beautiful face, rich in everything art, famous for its annual performance, Fringe and literary festivals. I stay with dear friends whose hospitality and learned appreciation for their home is contagious.  Each day starts with one of my favourite sprightly walks, up Arthurs’s Seat, overlooking the city of Edinburgh and beyond.

At the other end of the day, we regularly drink at The Sheep Heid Inn, Duddingston. Dating back to the 14th Century, The Sheep Heid is Scotland’s oldest pub, boasting famous patrons from times gone by including Bonnie Prince Charlie, writer Robert Louis Stevenson and poet Robert Burns.
            
Photos: The walk starts around Dunsapie Loch; towards the peak of Arthur’s Seat; along the pathway: the small track down to Duddingston Village; The Sheep Heid.  

On past visits, I’ve become aware of Scotland’s vast history of female artists, as well as seeing wonderful contemporary works by women.  My last trip, I was introduced to painter Victoria Crowe (London born 1945,) whose breadth of creativity includes interiors, landscapes, portraits and still life. As her subject changes, so does her palette, the impact of light, as her painting techniques become familiar.

Born in London (1945), Victoria Crowe made Edinburgh’s Pentland Hills her home from the late 1960’s. The seasons and cold climate play a role in many of her works.  Her art was further impacted by travels to Italy, particularly the early Renaissance works. What is enticing about Crowe’s work is the awareness of its passages, seemingly a reflection of those movements within in her life, in the aptly titled exhibition, “Victoria Crowe, 50 years of Painting”.
            
Photos: Four from Victoria Crowe’s exhibition including Portrait of pioneering Psychoanalyst, Dr Winifred Rushforth and Near Rialto, Venice; stroll the city’s Dundas Street for a variety of contemporary glass and art.

Art ‘of all sorts’ abounds in Edinburgh:
            
Photos: Pleasance is one of many hubs at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival; Nathan Coley’s “Everything is going to be alright” across the facade of the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art; sculptural stones in the old dressing rooms at Dovecot Tapestry Studio and Galleries (formerly Victorian Baths); weavers work on the floor at Dovecot: The Queen’s Gallery.

SEVILLE in sunny SPAIN.
There’s everything to love about Spain, I’ve been a few times and can’t name a favourite place or city.  I could start with the food! Like everything Spanish, it explodes with colour and textures.  The people too are vibrant, as are the street sights, the music, architecture, history and climate, hence sunny Spain.  On my last trip, we visited friends in Seville – capital of the Andalusia region – my first ‘taste’ of its delights.

               
Photos: mouth-watering jamon, carved from the bone;  Al fresco dining – in the gardens alongside Plaza de España , “Cheers” Richard.  Victoria, spoilt for choice at Chiva restaurant (the best hospitality).  Salads and sausages beside the Canal De Alfonso XIII; “Cheers” Emilie. 

Strolling Seville, there’s much to absorb.  As an Australian, the tiling around Spain is always enticing, something we don’t see at home. Their colours of yellow and blue, also represented in the yellow and white architecture, are pretty against the skies. Look up, down, over there!  Let the photos do the walking.

            
Photos: Postcards from Seville; Plaza de España, loads of loveliness.

            
Photos: Look up as you wander; fishing under the Puente de Isabel II; view of the city from one of the undulating walkways of Metropol Parasol (known as “the Mushrooms”, Las Setas), built 2011. 

Formerly a Convent built 1594, Museo de Bellas Artes de Sevilla (Museum of Fine Arts) has an extensive collection housed in five rooms: 15th century Sevillian painting and sculpture; Renaissance; Mannerism; Naturalism: Murillo and Sevillian Baroque. There’s much to see as your eyes roam the decorative arches, walls, ceilings, before taking in the breadth of art history and works.  I’ll have to return to absorb and learn more. Here’s a small sampling.
            
Photos: Sculpture by Italian artist of the Florentine school, Pietro Torrigiano. He was important in introducing Renaissance art to England, but his ‘violent temper’ impacted his success. He died in Seville in 1528; Retrato de señora y caballero orantes (Portrait of a praying lady and gentleman) by Francisco Pacheco, a Spanish painter and teacher whose textbook “Art of Painting” was an important study source of 17thC practice in Spain; along the cloisters in the (former) Convent; furniture and wall sculptures; Nicoloso Francisco was an Italian painter and sculptor, based in Seville, his Virgen con el Niño (Virgin and child).

On my last trip to Europe, I visited MONTPELLIER in SOUTHERN FRANCE, staying with Melbourne friends in their apartment. It felt immediately like a ‘happy home’, not just because of their generous hospitality, but also the compact size of this old University town. From Montpellier’s heart, Place de la Comedie Square, with its theatres, old buildings and people-watching, it’s easy to wander the charming narrow streets, finding ‘little places of interest’. The tram system is efficient, but as a walker, I was happy to stroll around Montpellier’s medieval history for hours. We dined al fresco for lunch and dinner and, on one evening were treated to an outdoor music recital.

The University’s Faculty of Medicine, is a fascination, not just visually, but historically. Originally St. Bendict’s Monastery founded in 1364, it became the Faculty of Medicine in 1795.  The Faculty contains a library of 900 manuscripts, 300 incunabula and 10,000 volumes printed before the 18th century.  I can’t imagine the awe and excitement of today’s medical students, walking through those looming wooden doors, knowing it’s so old that Nostradamus studied there. (I’ve read this great astrologer and prophesier had a few ‘run ins’ with the learned faculty members and was asked to leave, not achieving his Doctorate.)

            
Photos: The Montpellier Aqueduct – Les Arceaux ; Looking up to the apse of St Peter’s Basilica (first stone laid in 1364, consecrated in 1373);  entrance hall to Faculty of Medicine; one of the many lists of Bienfaiteurs (Benefactors) from as early as 1180 Guilhem VIII; the Law Courts Building.

Strolling Montpelier, enjoying the street sights and lifestyle.
            
Photos: Eye-pleasing trompe l’oeil; these bicycles were attached to walls around various parts of the city; leisurely summer reading.
                
Photos: “Look up!”;  Oh yes, we enjoyed the outdoor dining in summer’s evening light.

We roamed a couple of art galleries, but Montpellier’s Musée Fabre is it’s ‘gem’ – considered one of the finest art museums in Europe, with a collection ranging from Renaissance through to contemporary and present day works.
           
Photos: Stairway up to one of elegant gallery spaces in Musée Fabre;  traditional & contemporary art and sculpture; detail from Montpellier artist Frédéric Bazille’s (1868) Vue de Village; portrait of  Fernande Olivier by Dutch painter Kees van Dongen (Fauvism, 1905).  Fernande, herself a French artist and model, seems to have been much loved and admired. Pablo Picasso painted more than 60 portraits of her. Twenty years after their relationship she published a book about their time together. Picasso hired lawyers to suppress publication. Ultimately only six articles were published, but apparently Fernande lived well off the financial rewards. 

Edinburgh, Seville, Montpellier. Three abundantly colourful and beguiling cities.  It’s challenging right now, not being able to travel, to stroll familiar main streets, explore winding village paths, gape in galleries, sip coffee while people-watching. Most importantly, missing the excitement of booking flights, those months of forward planning to see friends ……. and then, there you are again. Together, “as if it was yesterday”, dining under the night skies, laughing, seated at a favourite restaurant, tasting the deliciousness of foods and local wines. ….. catching-up.

So near but so far.  We’ll be back!Photo:  Montpellier – look closely. This romantic building is, in fact,
an apartment block covered in trompe l’oeil art. 

 

© 2021 Text and photographs Pamela Reid/tPRo

 

 

 

 

top of the class!

Photo: Sr.M.Ursula with English & History teacher, Miss Costigan, 1960s

Ask a friend about their favourite schoolteacher and everyone has a story.  Mine was Sr. M Ursula, my art teacher at Santa Maria College. Way back then, I had no idea how enduring her instructional and observational lessons would be.  Sr. Ursula would take us on tram rides into Melbourne city, telling us to ‘look up’ at the local, historic architecture above shops and offices. That one expression, look up, was to become my refrain throughout future journeys, exploring what she taught my eyes to see.   One tram trip was to the National Gallery of Victoria, to see the American Abstract Expressionists.  What an eye-opener!  I had no idea that lines and shapes with bold colours could have such impact.

I was grateful too for my Catholic education which gave me an understanding of how biblical and art history are intrinsically enmeshed; the power and wealth of Catholicism, the Medici family’s might throughout The Renaissance. In the decades to follow, Sr. Ursula’s tuition travelled with me:  as I stood in the Uffizi Gallery, Florence, remembering lessons in early perspective – Paolo Uccello’s The Battle of San Romano; seeing in real life Sandro Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus;  Michaelangelo’s David and the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel ceiling; of course, the Mona Lisa in the Louvre; in Barcelona and London, those confident lines of Picasso and Matisse; the waterlilies and haystacks of French Impressionists Monet and VanGogh; painting en plein air at the foot of Cézanne’s Mont Sainte-Victoire.  So many occasions exploring old and new art. But, the most memorable moments were the overwhelming emotions on the first sighting of Vatican City, and arriving in Venice. As the vaporetto moved slowly along The Grand Canal, my nose was pressed to the glass, mouth almost gaping at the Doges Palace, Bridge of Sighs, St Marks Square.  Sr. Ursula was close and I thanked her for everything she taught me.

Last week I visited NGV AUSTRALIA’S TOP ARTS 2021 exhibition, an annual opportunity to admire what VCE Art students are creating. Last year, they were further challenged with 2020’s lockdowns due to COVID-19.  I am in awe of their teachers and collective imaginations under such constraints. Works are diverse, using drawing, painting, sculpture, installation and multimedia. Not only is this Top Arts an excellent representation of schools’ curriculum, it offers an educational resource for younger students and budding artists.

With such a diversity of works, I can only give a representation here.
Sarah Hare, Ocean  (Presbyterian Ladies’ College)
I’m a ‘water baby’ and happily immersed in this artwork, all those blues, feeling underwater. Made from squares of acrylic on paper, hole-punched, threaded to one complete work.
Bronte Green, Streets of your town  (Santa Maria College)
Painted in gouache on paper, I was delighted to see an artwork from my old school, Santa Maria College. Bronte depicts my neighbourhood and many Melbourne suburban streets.
Lara Atkinson, Untitled (Clair de Lune) (Korowa Anglican Girls’ School)
Lara’s digital animation was one of my favourites.  I was drawn to the sound of Clair de Lune before realising it was the soundtrack to the changing images. Untitled is Lara’s life story, trying to both explain and understand what it is like for a person with autism. I also noted, that Untitled stood alone in a boxed gallery space, highlighting the importance to approach and step closer.
Charlotte Grimes, Lament from the series The ineffable, (Damascus College)
The shallows and an ironing board! Charlotte’s photographic content drew an immediate response from me.  She writes that she was “influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic, expressing how our worlds have recently been turned inside out. It also shows that our 2020 existence has been defined by our home lives and new-found connection to the natural landscapes around us.” As someone who has, for decades, walked Port Phillip Bay each morning  – add the domestic chores – this could have been a visual representation of my life during 2020 lockdowns.  I noted Salvador Dali is an inspiration to Charlotte. At her age, not only was I also exploring photography, particularly the works of those fabulous Time/Life photojournalists, but I repeatedly borrowed Dali’s book ‘Diary of a Genius’ from the library.  Charlotte’s work (inkjet print on glass) spoke to both the young and much older me.
Angelina Innocent, Unsubscribed  (RMIT Urban School)
Angelina’s message is potent, moreso in the shadows cast by her suspended doll, grimly twisted and tortured, shackled.  Using felt, ribbon, chain and acrylic on canvas, you can sense Angelina’s intellect and experimentation evolving. Congratulations, Angelina, on your gender expression.
            
Photos: Sarah Hare – Ocean ; Bronte Green – Streets of your town; Lara Atkinson – Untitled(Clair de Lune); Tahlia Reisacher’s Elephantus Submerged is reflected in Charlotte Grimes – The ineffable; Angelina Innocent – Unsubscribed. 

PEOPLE’S CHOICE  The Top Arts exhibition invites a People’s Choice Award. I didn’t really have to make a choice, because Phoebe Thompson’s Coexistence (St Margaret’s School) charmed me. The seeming simplicity of combining an object of nature, placed within a ceramic block; each piece stood alone, while mingling with the surrounding works. It is evident that Phoebe has an innate observation and connection with the environment.  So beautiful and serene. Thank you, Phoebe.
Alice Jakobus, Nostalgia & the future (Sacré Cœur)
Generally, I don’t feel kindly to work as “an homage” to great artists, however I found the overt wink to John Brack’s “Collins St, 5pm, 1955” delightful and meaningful. (graphite pencil, paper stumps, watercolour paper).
Greta Linehan. 1 in 5 Australian women over the age of 15 are victims of sexual assault (St Aloysius College)
A compelling title! Greta has intelligently created a work that expresses her degree of discomfort with this reality. She writes, “I achieved this by drawing raw, chaotic portraits of my loved ones adjacent to real victims from the media (Jill Meagher, Eurydice Dixon). The use of multi-media embellishment visually represents the trauma and injustice of such a ruthless crime”.  (Post it notes, ballpoint pen, ink, thread, copic marker, pins, gouache, gauze, bandage, staples and double-sided tape on foamex board.)
Arie Sawyer, People are cocoon weavers, whether they know it or not  (Alice Miller School)
This work greets you on entering the Top Arts exhibition. Using wool, plastic, plant matter, electrical cord, synthetic hair, hoop iron, Alice’s “person” represents its title, depicting individual metamorphosis. With David Bowie as her inspiration, I am sure he would have been delighted with Alice’s cocoon weaver.
Sophie Yang, Imagine how much more you could be (Yarra Valley Grammar)
I was first attracted to the vibrancy of Sophie’s (inkjet print on paper) art, the overt use of complementary colours. But, reading her purpose concerned me – more likely, the maternal me. This strong graphic and palette is a representation of the demands Sophie places on herself, her striving and ultimately, as she writes, ‘burnout’.
           
Photos: Phoebe Thompson – Coexistence; Alice Jakobus –  Nostalgia & the future; Greta Linehan – 1 in 5 Australian women over the age of 15 are victims of sexual assault; Arie Sawyer – People are cocoon weavers, whether they know it or not; detail from Sophie Yang – Imagine how much more you could be.

She-Oak and Sunlight: Australian Impressionism
I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of drought and flooding rains.   (From My Country)

At school, we were taught Dorothea Mackellar’s “My Country”.  And, we learnt about the Australian Impressionists art movement. I recall practising the title of Arthur Streeton’s The purple noon’s transparent might, committing it to memory.

She-Oak and Sunlight is another major exhibition of more than 250 works, currently at NGV Australia. I love this period of art and its storytelling in depicting Dorothea Mackellar’s changing landscape. Featuring the best know Impressionists – Tom Roberts, Charles Condor, Frederick McCubbin, Arthur Streeton – along with other notable artists –  it is the colours and textures of Australia’s terrain that brings life and place to these works.

When painting en plein air, there’s so much enjoyment in sitting on the ground, midst the landscape, mixing the colours on my palette. In viewing the works of our Australian Impressionists, I wanted to “be there”, watching and learning, up close to their techniques in capturing our countryside, skies, gum trees and nature.
            
Photos: Tom Roberts’ narratives (detail).  A Break away!;  Bailed up; A Quiet day on Darebin, Creek;  Shearing the Rams.
              
Photos:  Textures and technique (detail).   Jane Sutherland – Obstruction, Box Hill; Arthur Streeton – The railway station, Redfern; Arthur Streeton – Sirius Cove; Tom Roberts’ bush brushstroke.

Over the thirsty paddocks,
Watch, after many days,

The filmy veil of greenness
That thickens as we gaze.  (From My Country)

Top Arts 2021 is on at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia until 11 July.
She-Oak and Sunlight is at the Ian Potter Centre; NGV Australia until 22 August.
https://www.ngv.vic.gov.au/whats-on


Photo: Art tuition (at the Carterisville homestead).

© Photographs and text Pamela Reid/tPRo 2021